Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Report
The 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival
Updated: October 3, 2006 -- Flight of the Lawnchair Man gains altitude, Having It Almost is only almost terrific and Warrior adds a moving bio-musical to the NYMF mix.. Smoking Bloomberg is funny and fun but in need of a blue pencil. A flawed book sinks the good score of Captain Gravy's Wavy Navy: Three Sides has three smart performers and a fine score. Behind the Limelight deserves to be in the limelight. . .All Is Love adds up to an hour of well choreographed entertainment. The screams-- but mostly the music -- of Kitty Genovese stay with you. Common Grounds is an uncommonly pleasing dance musical and so is School Daze. Good performances can't save Gutenberg the Musical! from floundering.. J.O.B. The Hip-Hopera a NYMF thumbs up., Night of the Hunter proves difficult to translate from page to musical stage. Maria, Maria is the Festival's most lavishly produced show, but hardly the Korean feast. it was cracked up to be. A late entry for the record, Journey West.
List of Shows Reviewed at CurtainUp(An asterisk* before each title indicates that a review is posted.)
*All Is Love | *Behind the Limelight | *Captain Gravy's Wavy Navy: Where's the Moon? | *Common Ground | *Flight of the Lawnchair Man | *Gutenberg! The Musical | *Have a Nice Life | *Having It Almost| *J.O.B. The Hip-Hopera | *Journey to the West | Maria Maria--See special CurtainUp reader discount code | *Night of the Hunter | *The Screams of Kitty Genovese | *School Daze | *Smoking Bloomberg | *Three Sides | *Warrior | *Maria Maria
Reviewers: Brad Bradley | Joan Eshkenazi | Julia Furay | David Lipfert | Carey Purcell| Elyse Sommer
INVITED SHOWS This year's invited shows to receive full productions include:
The best way to describe this musical biography of Charlie Chaplin is to quote one of its own songs—"it is wonderful." It's a superb combination of song, dance and story.Starring Luther Creek as the film legend, it begins with his childhood in London and tells of his rise to fame until his banishment from America due to suspicion of un-American activities.Escape and fame are the themes, and Creek’s Chaplin eagerly seeks both. He happily states that he has "found his place in the world" by becoming the Little Tramp. While he found himself by becoming someone else this creates great confusion in both his life and his work.
Creek recreates Chaplin’s trademark motions perfectly, complete with the hat and cane twirls. In the vaudeville skits, Charlie and Sid’s pantomime duets are skillfully arranged. The book is slightly disjointed,and at times the narrative feels rushed, but the songs performed by an extremely talented cast and written in the style of classic old-fashioned musicals are outstanding, both innovative and nostalgic. The political aspects of Chaplin’s life are addressed with poignancy and relevancy, with questions about Chaplin’s morals and communism resonating all too familiarly with current accusations of terrorism in America. Exposing the hard side of fame and Hollywood doesn't make for a simple, happy musical. The power of the press, as well as the American idolization of celebrities are all addressed. The more Creek’s Chaplin achieves, the more confused he becomes. "I dreamt for so much more and now I long for so much less," he says when overwhelmed by the complications of his life.
While the script and songs are enjoyable, it is the performances that make Behind the Limelight such a success. Janet Metz plays Hannah, Chaplins mother and the mentor and inspiration during his earlylife. Brooke Sunny Moriber as Edna Purviance, Charlie’s first wife, is slightly too angelic though she has some extremely powerful scenes with Creek. Garrett Long as Una, his last wife, is a more developed character and extremely likeable. It is Andrea McArdle, as Hedda Hopper, the journalist with a mission to destroy Chaplin, who is the most memorable. Bold and brassy, she belts her songs at the top of her lungs. Sean Palmer’s lovely vocals and understated acting are tragically underused as Syd, Charlie’s fiercely local and staunchly devoted brother and aide de camp. The relationship between the two runs deep and Palmer fulfills the role as much he can.
"It is wonderful when the life you wished for becomes real," Charlie writes in a letter to Syd. It is also wonderful when a fantastic show is made from it. Music, book and lyrics by Christopher Curtis. Directed by Michael Unger. Musical Direction by Bryan Perri. Choreography by Jennifer Paulson Lee. Starring Luther Creek, Sean Palmer, Andrea McArdle, Brooke Sunny Moriber, Garrett Long, Janet Metz, Robert Langdon Lloyd, Danny Hallowell, Tommy Hallowell. Ensemble: Joel Hurt Jones, Randy Blair, Michael J. Farina, Robert Rokicki, Sarah Darling, Scott Barnhardt, Kristin Knutsen, Molly Curry. Sept. 19 at 8pm; Sept. 20 at 1pm; Sept. 23 & 27 at 9pm; sept. 28 & 30th at 1pm. St. Clement's. Reviewed by Carey Purcell on Sept. 19th.
The Children. Book and Lyrics by Stan Richardson, Music by Hal Goldberg. What it's about: A comedy based on the low-budget 1980 b-horror movie of the same title in which a low-hanging cloud of radioactive waste turns a school bus full of children into second-rate zombies, who proceed to track down and zap their negligent parents one by one. Sept. 12 & 15 at 8pm; Sept. 16 at 1pm; Sept. 17 at 8 pm; Sept. 20 & 24 at 1pm. TBG
This show is less the comedy it was intended to be than a tragedy. That because it has two superbly talented actors putting so much time and energy into such a flawed project. The story revolves around Doug (Jeremy Shamos), and Ben (Christopher Fitzgerald), who wrote a musical. that theyare desperate to have done on Broadway. Consequently the show is structured as a backer's audition. With no supporting cast, Ben and Doug explainthe scenes and songs as they go along and use printed baseball hats with the names of the characters that they are playing. Sometimes they play several characters at once -- and thus quite literally wear multiple hats.
The story is set in Schlimmer, Germany where Gutenberg, the wine presser is one night is inspired to make the printing press. An evil monk, whose power derives from being the town's only literate man. Other characters include Gutenberg's assistant Helvetica, two drunk men, an anti-Semitic flower girl, an old black narrator, and a dead baby. Doug and Bud take breaks from their marathon performances to comment and explain ("That's called character development" is their comment after a song they call "the love ballad".. . .what they call a "charm song," is supposed to distract the audience from the show's actual plot). The men's personal lives also come into play, with Bud sharing the fact that he is looking for a wife and Doug revealing that he is gay. The interactions between them as characters is more entertaining than the show that they supposedly wrote.
Gutenberg is not without wit and some of the lyrics are truly clever. But its success, if any, comes from the heroic effort put forth by Shamos and Fitzgerald, their ability to shift quickly and effectively from character to character. As Helvetica, Fitzgerald sings a high-pitched wistful ballad about her love for Gutenberg.. As the Bad Monk, he wails a raspy jazz melody about his fetish for pain, all the while inexplicably sharpening pencils. Fitzgerald's physicality is admirable. Shamos matches his ability to switch roles, from the hero and title character to the stoic Beef Fat Trimmer, to the subservient sidekick to the Bad Monk. Both men are vocally talented, and when Shamos slips into Elvis singing-style during his inspiration to create the printing press, it provides a much-needed moment of authentic levity. Sadly, all these actors' valiant attempts can't fulfill the show's intentions as a musical spoofing musicals. The idea has been done before — and better.
Book, music and lyrics by Anthony King and Scott Brown. Directed by Dave Mowers. Musical Direction by Matt Castle. Running time: 90 minutes with an intermission. Sage. Sept. 22 at 8pm; Sept. 25 at 4:30pm; Sept. 27 at 8 pm; Sept. 28 at 8pm; Sept. 30 at 1 and 4:30 pm. Reviewed by Carey Purcell, Sept. 27. (Editor's Note: I went with Carey to see the show as I was curious to see if the 40-minute showcase version we reviewed at an earlier Festival had improved with expansion. Alas, even the talented Shamos and Fitzgerald were not sufficient reason for expanding and reprising this.--es)
Having It Almost
Five unconnected women are trapped at JFK airport during a blackout, and end up sharing their secrets, ambitions, fears and regrets with each other. All five end up happier and stronger as a result. Sound contrived? Of course it is. But solid dialogue, terrific songs and charismatic characters go a long way to make up for the unrealistic premise. Too bad Having it Almost isn't consistently touching and funny enough to make us completely forget the awkward, unnatural quality of the book.
The musical's biggest problem is that the five characters seem more like types than like real people: a wholesome Midwestern schoolteacher (Stefanie Morse), a neurotic Jewish woman (Liz Larsen), a bitchy career gal (Anastasia Barzee), a vegan yoga instructor (Amy Eschman), and a desperate housewife (Wendy Perelman, who also co-wrote the book). These women and their eventual revelations are pretty predictable. The show nevertheless has its charms, notably the performances. This quintet of warm, tough women belts out solos with abandon and establish a warm rapport with each other and with the audience. The standout is Liz Larsen as the ever-single Sissy. Her songs about dating (or failing to) and book-writing (or failing to) are awfully funny.
The score overall is solid if not especially memorable. The lyrics are more polished than the music. The additional songs ("My Book" and "I Won't Mind") by Jeff Blumenkrantz, Annie Kessler and Libby Saines are superb. However, the beautiful and touching "I Won't Mind" which wasn't originally written for this musical,seems oddly out of place; its old-fashioned sensibility is totally anachronistic in the show's context. This anachronism provides an excellent analogy to the show itself which lacks the fresh ideas and quirky performances that permeate NYMF.
Book by David Goldsmith & Wendy Perelman, Music by John Kavanaugh, Lyrics by David Goldsmith, with additional songs by Jeff Blumenkrantz, Anne Kessler & Libby Saines, and Stephen Schwartz. Sept. 13 & 14 at 8pm; Sept. 15 at 4:30pm; Sept. 16 at 4:30 & 8 pm; Sept.17 at 1pm. New World Stages
Reviewed by Julia Furay on Sept. 14th.
Setting the Bible to rap may be a risky venture, but Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion have pulled it off. They manage to fuse Biblical themes with a musically strong, entertaining show. A talented cast delivers lessons of love and forgiveness, right and wrong, being true to oneself and more.
Set at Hoover Records, the most successful recording studio in the country, the show takes the audience on a tour ranging from the Gansterfication floor to the Jingle floor. The company is run by the crotchety old Mr. Hoover, a crotchety old man, who greatly favors Job, the head of A&R who wants to replace Hip-Hop's gangster image. His peers are afraid of this change and the jealous Louis Saphire, VP of Finance, almost brings him down. Down in the jingle section, we have two often at odds wannabe rappers, MC Cain and MC Able.
Eli Batalion and Niles Rivers, perform most of the roles, often switching characters mid-scene. Rivers excels as Job, the hero, as well as the devious Sapphire. Batalion thrives as the hunch-backed Hoover and provides great comic relief as Eleanor, the intern, whose motto is "I can do, like, whatever, if my heart is pure…nothing is impossible except, like, flying…" The performers are complimented by Myesha Taylor's backup singing and Hassan Christopher'sbreathtaking choreography, with dancers Hassan Christopher, Marissa Labog and Aimee Zannoni seemingly defying gravity at certain moments. The lyrics of the show are sharp though sometimes they pass by the audience too quickly. A witty mention of the NRA's support of gangster rap is easily overlooked due to the fast pace of the lines. J.O.B is a social commentary on modern-day, especially in its not very pretty picture of corporate commercialism. . You're left with a lot to ponder about the value of love, forgiveness, work and success long after the turntable is turned off.
Book & Lyrics by Jerome Sable & Eli Batalion, Music by Jerome Sable, Eli Batalion & Joe Barrucco. Choregraphy byHassan Christopher. Sound Design by Joe Barrucco, Martin Carrillo, Sable & Batalion. Starrng Sable and Batalion. This premiered in LA where it was a big hit-- including with our LA critic, Ariana Mufson. To read her review go here. Sept. 25 & 27 at 8pm; Sept. 28 at 4:30pm; Sept. 29 at 8 & 10:30 pm; Oct 1 at 1pm. 45th Street Theatre. Reviewed by Carey Purcell Sept. 25.
Captain Gravy's Wavy Navy: Where Is the Moon? .
This family audience geared show opens with a wonderful, promising moment. Captain Gravy, our hero, passes out the costumes for the actors to become their characters which can be a happy clam, an octopus telephone operator, or the Man in the Moon himself. The company sings a soaring number, "Welcome to the River." A huge multicolored parachute represents the song's magical river. Unfortunately, the rest of the show doesn't quite match the energy of this opening number.
The show's title tells you all you need to know, plot- wise: Captain Gravy (an appropriately nerdy Gregory Guy Gorden) and his faithful crew, the Wavy Navy, are hunting for the moon, which has been stolen by a villain named Mu Pollu (Kenny Wade Marshall). The 90 minute long show (with an intermission) makes no bones about its silly, zany attitude and co-creators Jeffery Katz and David Cooper have imbued it with the feel of an old-fashioned comic book adventure with lots of goofy jokes about sea creatures and convoluted superhero plots.
The best part of the musical is the score (also by Katz and Cooper). Both songs and choreography (by Maurice Brandon Curry) are cute without being cloying. Unfortunately, the canned accompaniment didn't do the score any favors, making the actors sound muffled and the lyrics difficult to understand. The book is an even bigger problem, with jokes that aren't terribly funny and too many distracting plot twists and turns. The cast is uniformly likeable, the standout being the villain Marshall with his screechy, maniacal laugh and hilarious ability to spray the entire company with his spit-heavy speeches. Despite Elizabeth Lucas's efforts to bring lots of lighthearted energy to the piece, it never really comes to life. Perhaps with some rewriting and streamlining, the compelling family musical lurking somewhere inside Captain Gravy will find its way to the surface.
Book, music and lyrics by David Cooper & Jeffrey Katz. A zany musical adventure in the tradition of Yellow Submarine and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Edward M. Barker (Blues the Frog), Brian Barry (Walter Wannabe), James Edward Becton (Man in the Moon), Amy Coleman (The Octorator), Kathy Deitch (Happy the Clam), Enrique Cruz Dejesus (Manny-T), Gregory Guy Gorden (Captain Gravy), Reggan Holland (Mama), Lauren Lebowitz (Rayadar), Kenny Wade Marshall (Mu Pollu). Sept. 14 at 8pm; Sept. 16 at 4:30pm; Sept. 18 at 4:30 & 8 pm; Sept 19 at 8pm; Sept. 22 att 10pm. -- plus additional performance on September 23 at 4:30pm @ The 45th Street Theatre, 354 West 45th Street (between 8th and 9th Aves.), New York, NY. -- reviewed by Julia Furay Sept. 18th.
The Man in My Head. A one-man show to star Darius de Haas. Book by Thomas F. DeFrantz, Music and Lyrics by Michael Wartofsky. What it's about: Drew Durango wants it all: a loving relationship with a rock-steady African-American man, solid friendships with Chelsea party boys and a way to share his world with his Granny in Indianapolis. But after seven years living in New York, he still hasn't quite figured it out, careening in and out of love and entanglements with a handsome but closeted attorney, a Zen-like children’s basketball coach, a sister on a mission to find a husband, a hard-partying Harlem Hospital nurse and his nephew from the Midwest. Sept 26 & 28 at 8pm; Sept. 29 at 4:30pm; Sept. 30 at 8pm.45th St. Theatre.
Night of the Hunter
It spent weeks and weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The film with Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters and a screenplay by renowned writer James Agee is still a favorite video golden oldie. However, it just doesn't work as well as a musical. And that’s not for a lack of trying. Some of the songs are excellent and the performances are energetic and emotionally strong, but the libretto flounders. In case you're unfamiliar with the plot of this depression era thriller, it revolves around a family and a lot of money. Husband and father Ben Harper steals ten thousand dollars and dies with only his son John and his daughter Pearl privvy to the hiding place. Enter, Harry Powell, a traveling preacher and murderer who knows about the hidden stash and woos the widow to gain access to it. The mother is more easily won over than the children and soon a frantic chase ensues that has the kids running for their lives. God plays a powerful supporting role and is mentioned in almost every scene which adds to the challenges facing the creative team. While this religious subtext is enhanced in many ways by the music, it ends up contributing to a confusing ending. What we have is a beginning that feels rushed, a middle that lags and an ending that feels chaotic. . This is likely to make things difficult to follow for anyone unfamiliar with the book or film. in the audience who has not read the book.
My complaints about the page to musical stage adaptation aside, the actors give it their all to the acting and vocal demands of the show.. Dee Hoty gives a heartbreaking performance as the lonely and vulnerable Willa Harper. Sy Adamowsky as John Harper and Carly Rose Sonenclar as Pearl are also impressive, bringing weight and depth to their characters. As Harry Powell, Brian Noonan is satisfyingly eerie. He has a powerful stage presence, a rich speaking and singing baritone and manages to be charming and menacing at the same time. Too bad, a lot of work needs to be done, before Night of the Hunter is worthy of all this talent .
Music by Claibe Richardson. Book & Lyrics by Stephen Cole, based on the novel by Davis Grubb. Starring Sy Adamowsky, Dee Hoty, Brian Noonan, Carly Rose Sonenclar. Ensemble: Matt Bailey, Allison Fischer, Beth Fowler, Tom Gualtieri, Lois Hart, Ellen Harvey , Tina Johnson, Emma Parks, Doug R. Paulson, Morgan Reilly, Mary Stout, Michael Turay, Gerry Vichi, Gordon Weiss.4. Sept. 26 at 8pm; Sept. 27 at 1pm; Sept. 29 at 9pm; Sept. 30 at ! & 5pm; Oct. 1 at 5pm. 37 Arts. Reviewed by Carey Purcell, September 30, 5pm.
The Paisley Sisters' Christmas Special. Book by Jim Ansart, Jill Benjamin, Brett Silverman & Steve Silverman; Music by Bret Silverman; Lyrics by Jim Ansart, Jill Benjamin and Bret Silverman. What it's about: Set in 1964, the Paisley Sisters (Connie, Bonnie, Lonnie, and Abigail) air a brand-new color-television holiday extravaganza that they hope will put them back in the Top 40. Sept. 19 at 8pm; Sept. 20 at 4:30pm; Sept. 23 at 8pm; Sept. 24 & 25 at 1 pm; Sept. 26 at 8pm The Sage.
Party Come Here. Book by Daniel Goldfarb, Music by David Kirshenbaum, Lyrics by David Kirshenbaum. What it's about: A nervous groom, a statue of Christ, and a 500-year-old Jewish caveman converge to make miracles happen during a tropical storm in Rio. A nervous groom, a statue of Jesus Christ, and a 500-year-old Jewish caveman will converge one night in Rio during a tropical storm. The cast includes Hunter Foster (Jack), Terrance Mann (Wood), Fyvush Finkel (Orlando) and Kaitlin Hopkins (Liberty). Sept 25 at 8pm; Sept. 26 at 1pm; Sept. 28 at 9pm; Sept. 29 at 4:30 pm; Sept.30 at 1 & 4:30 PM.. TBG
The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun. Book and Additional Lyrics by Blair Fell, Music and Lyrics by Andy Monroe.The story of Sister Smilie’s pop-star fame and tragic decline told through the eyes of a nun named Sister Coco Callmeishmael. Sept. 14 at 8pm; Sept. 15 & 16 at 1pm; Sept. 16 at 1 pm; Sept. 17 at 8pm ; Sept. 18 at 1pm; Sept. 22 at 9pm. St. Clement's
This Could Be Love. Book, Music and, Lyrics by Brock Simpson. What it's about, a two-hander about a jingle writer and a full-time temp who decide to cheat fate and fall in love…whether they like each other or not. Sept 18 at 8pm; Sept. 20 at 1 pm; Sept. 23 at 1pm; Sept. 24 at 8pm; Sept. 27 at 4:30 pm; Sept. 29 at 8pm. The Sage.
Virgins. Book and Lyrics by Dean Bryant, Music by Mathew Frank. This sounds a tad like Altar Boyz, about a group of teenagers touring their song-and -dance abstinence show, a burlesque look at the world of internet porn, and "Refugee Idol." Sept 14 at 8pm; Sept. 17 at 1 & 4:30 pm; Sept. 20 at 9 pm; Sept. 22 at 8pm; Sept. 26 at 8pm. TBG.
White Noise. Music, Lyrics and Book by Joe Drymala, with additional songs by Rick Crom, Glen Kelly, Laurence O'Keefe, Stephen Sisten and Eric Svejcar. What it's about: Teen sisters Blanche and Eva, lead the band White Noise, which mixes irresistible harmonies… with white power rhetoric. Their controversial rise to fame parallels a growing white supremacist movement that threatens to engulf America, and Blanche and Eva prove themselves to be masters of the most terrifying and unstoppable form of racism in today's culture: Top Forty pop. White Power Teen Pop pPlaying determined older sister Eva will be Libby Winters and younger sister Blanche by Christina Calph. Phillip Taratula will be the girls' father. Sept 18 at 8pm; Sept. 20 at 4:30 pm; Sept. 23 at 4:30 pm; Sept. 23 at 4:30pm; Sept. 24 & 29 at 8pm. TBG.
I was a bit disappointed when I realized that I would be seeing Sonya as Maria, instead of Hyo Sung Kang, the 2004 winner of the Korean Musical Award for best actress at the Saturday matinee press performance of this Korean import presented in association with NYMF. As was quickly evident, it didn't matter a whit. which of the two women alternating the title role was on stage. What was disappointing was the show itself. Though longer than most of the NYMF shows I saw, and much more lavishly staged, this popera in which Mary Magdalene is a prostitute who, in order to escape her miserable sexual servitute to soldiers in Bethlehem is persuaded to help bring down the increasingly popular Jesus by seducing him. Of course, it's quickly apparent that the seduction will work the other way around, with Maria spiritually seduced by the charismatic Jesus. An intriguing plot twist -- but oh, that numbingly repetitious and painfully overmiked pop score (you can sample some of it at www.mariausa.com), the eerie set which is constantly enveloped in stage smoke, and the frantic choreography! Given New York's large Korean Christian population, there's obviously a large, built-in audience for the Joa Musical Company's own version of Jesus Christ Superstar.. Unfortunately neither the stage bells and whistles or the physically attractive and hard-working 15-member cast are likely to establish Seoul as a seedbed for truly original and engaging musicals.
Sue Dang Lee's costumes include some sumptuous kimonos for Maria, the prerequisite plain whie gown for Jesus and dark leather-y outfits for his followers. The unseen band, consisting of just a piano and drum set manages to drown out the lyrics -- which, along with the spoken dialogue, are so banal that you'll probably stop reading the super titles at either side of the stage. In fact, the unrelenting monotony and awful amplification caused me to make my escape after the hour and twenty minute first act, so you'll have to see for yourself if the show, like its heroine, ultimately redeems itself. (The total running time, with intermission is about 2 hours and 20 minutes.) It's too bad that some of the less elaborate and Festival priced shows couldn't have had longer runs like this over-produced, overwrought and much higher priced import.
Music, Gyung Chan Chu; book and lyrics, Hye Jung Yu. Directed by Cheon Mo Seong. Choreography by In Sook Choi. Cast: Hyo Sung Kang, Sonya, Gain Choi, Bock Hee Yoon, Sang Woo Park, Seung Chul Lee, Tae Hyung Kim, Jong Goo Kim, Young Wan Kim, Hi Jin, Ki, Won Suk Ko, Sung Wook Lee, Ji Seung Ha, Soo Jung Kim, See Joon Wang Scenic design by Sook Jin Seo and Eui Yeon Lee. Costumes bySu Dong Lee. Lights by Tae Tean Koo. Sound by Kook Hyun Kang. Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College, 10th Avenue (between 59th and 58th Streets) 212-352-3101. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 8:00pm, Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Sunday 3:00pm & 7:00pm. Tickets, $65 (CurtainUp readers receive a 15% discount with the following code: CU15). Reviewed by Elyse Sommer, September 30th matinee.
NEXT LINK SHOWS
The 2006 Next Link Shows -- Full Productions:
Desperate Measures. Book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, music by David Friedman, directed by Eleanor Reissa. What it's about: Johnny Blood, a hotheaded young cowboy, is sentenced to hang for killing a man in a bar fight. When his sister Susanna, a novice nun in a nearby Franciscan mission, pleads for his life, the Governor offers to pardon Johnny – if Susanna will sleep with him. What to do? The sheriff suggests Susanna say yes and then, under cover of darkness, switch places with one of the saloon girls. This Western musical is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. 45th Street Theatre. Sept.15 @4:30; Sept. 16 and 17 at 8pm; Sept. 18 at 8pm; Sept. 20 and 24 at 4:30 pm. Extended with 2 additional performances, Sept. 20 at 1pm and Sept.22 at 4pm.
Emerald Man. a rock musical, with Book and Lyrics by Janet Cole Valdez, Music by Marc Bosserman and Tom Valdez Directed by Josh Prince. Musical Director Shawn Gough. What it's about: Murder, Intrigue, and Comic books in a modern-day Don Quixote tale based on a true story, centers around comic-obsessed Duncan who accidentally witnesses a murder by his stepfather and then flees his hometown. Realizing quickly that no one is coming to his rescue, he dons an emerald ring, his one legacy from the father he never knew, and dubs himse lf "Emerald Man," righter of the world's evils! Sept. 12 & 15 at 8pm; Spet. 16 at 4:30 & 8pm; Sept. 17 at 1pm; Sept. 22 at 4:30 pm.37 Arts Theatre.
This quirky musical fantasy which is actually based on a real news story started life as a 45-minute playlet at Harold Prince's Music Theater in Philadelphia where it was presented as part of a triptych of one-acts about middle Americans yearning to purusue their dreams. The development process took Lawnchair Man Jerry to California where the a Passaic, New Jersey clerk again pursuedhis dream of flying and escaping the tedium of a world of conformity and boring work by hitching a bunch of helium balloons to his folding chair. The show gained enough altitude to expand into a full-lenth presentation at Godspeed. Having already advanced to this level and with most of the Godspeed cast in place for the current Festival production is not a bare bones affair with a few chairs and oher props, but a polished production poised for it's next flight; in fact, were it not for Donna Lynne Champlin's starry performance as the adventure-starved Jerry Gorman's (Christopher Sutton) ever supportive girl friend Gracie, top billing would go to Walter Spangler's terrific DayGlo costumes and imaginative scenery. That's not to say that Champlin doesn't have good support. The entire cast sings well though one can't help wishing they didn't feel the need for such heavy miking. Every number at the performance I attended drew applause, especially Erin Maguire's ingenious puppet and roller skate enhanced recreation of a scene from The Red Balloon (she's also excellent as Amelia Earhart singing "Creature of the Air.")
Do Champlin and her colleagues, the catchy tunes and lively staging warrant the expansion from 45 to 90 minute too much padding in hopes of attracting another, longer run for this basically much done story (this is my second show in a week about a young man who quits his job to seek out a more adventurous life)? Probably. Still, there's a magical appeal in this melodic mix of fantasy and reality -- the airborne Jerry meets up with Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart but he must also deal with the earthbound Organization Man in the person of macho pilot Captain Jack and an officious FAA agent. It remains to be seen whether Lawnchair Man. . . , like another fanciful show, Drowsy Chaperone, has the legs for a Broadway life. For sure, it's one of the not to be missed, fun events of the Festival.
Composer-lyricist Robert Lindsey Nassif ; book Peter Ullian. Cast Patrick Boll (Big Jack), Jonathan Brody (Leonardo da Vinci), Donna Lynne Champlin (Gracie), John Michael Coppola (Reporter), William Gilinsky (Mr. Frankel), Danette Holden (Blaire), Susan J. Jacks (Mother Gorman), Erin Maguire (Pairs Boy/Amelia Earhart), Kristie Dale Sanders (FAA Agent), Christopher Sutton (Jerry Gorman), Christopher Vettel (Charles Lindbergh). Lynn Taylor-Corbett (director-choreographer), Doug Oberhamer (musical director), Walt Spangler (sets-costumes Ken Billington (lights).
Songs: Everything is Perfect in Passaic, Who is Jerry Gorman?,Everything is Perfect in Passaic (Reprise), Everything is Perfect in Passaic, Who is Jerry Gorman?, Have a Nice Day, The Red Balloon, Happy 34, Left, On the Road to Cape Canaveral , I Want to Fly, To 'Fame the Sky, What is That?, Tiny, Genius, The Air is Free, Who is Jerry Gormnan? (Reprise), Never Finish Before You Are Finished, Creature of the Air, Finale.
Sept. 13 and 17 at 8pm; Sept. 15 at 1 and 4:30 pm; Sept. 18 4:30 & 8pm. 37 Arts.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer on Sept. 15th.
Go-Go Beach. The beach party gang go-go-goes flower power! Book and lyrics by John Wimbs, music by Michael Shaieb and Brent Lord. Winner of Toronto Summer Works Festival Audience Choice Award. A coming-of-age story about a surfer who gets into trouble with his girlfriend when he falls for a runaway teen pop star, and the flower child who helps him find the true meaning of love. Sept. 16 at 1pm, Sept. 17 at 4:30 pm, Sept. 18 at 1pm, Sept. 22 at 8pm and Sept. 23 at 1pm. 37 Arts.
This first show to sprint out of the Festival's gate sets a high standard for the more than thirty others to come during the next few weeks. It introduces New York audiences to a triple threat talent, Irish born Conor Mitchell who has created a delightfully fresh score organically integrated with smart lyrics and an insightful book. The show runs a tad short of the ninety minute group therapy session that is the basis for bringing together six social misfits and their therapist who has a few unresolved personal issues of his own.
To set the revelations about each character's problems with love and loneliness in motion, one of the group members has brought a recently made friend to their twenty-third session. While none of the previous meetings have brought harmony into anyone's life or created a lovingly bonded group, it's "their group" and it takes a while to get used to the idea of a newcomer. Mitchell's music smartly echoes this psychological struggle between dissonance and harmony, with a terrifically harmonious balance between old-fashioned style show stopping melodies, fantastical acting-out songs complete with tap dancing routines, and harsher Sondheim-ish- Brechtian sounds for expressions of individual and group anger and pain.
As the session gets under way the spotlight shines on group members in both solos and duets. Fortunately this ensemble is well up to the acting and singing demands of these meaty parts. The most natural singers and actors are Emily Skinner as Jean coping with anger management issues and Kevin Carolan as the romance hungry mama's boy Chris. But that's not to diminish the performances of Michelle Blakely as Amy the group newbie who at first claims to have nothing to complain about; Jacquelyn Piro Donovan as Jackie, the mom overwhelmed by her three little tyrants; Michael Berry as Frank, the sarcastic mailman whose macho veneer is stripped away in his "I'm Fine"; and Nichole Ruth Snelson as the hilariously sluttish Barbara whose inappropriate behavior has made her the only law-assigned member of the group. Even Charles Hegerty's intense group leader Patrick gets a big solo -- when he loses his cool and belts out the title song.
Undoubtedly Have a Nice Life has undergone some changes since its earlier incarnations in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe, a process that would likely be part of any future and longer productions. Such changes needn't involve really elaborate sets or a big band as the show's best bet for an extended life would be off-Broadway and at regional theaters (and for sure at any gathering of psychologists and psychotherapists) -- maybe a platform added so the 5-piece band would be further away from the performers and thus less likely to force them to at times shout to make the lyrics heard; an upstage set for the various detours from the therapeutic sessions and a broadening of the choreographed elements. Show business being an iffy and difficult business, don't bank on a transfer though and try to catch one of the current production's remaining performances.
Book by Matthew Hurt with Conor Mitchell and Music & Lyrics by Conor Mitchell, based on an original idea by Mitchell. Pip Pickering, director. Rhonda Miller, choreographer. Jesse Poleshuck, scenic design; Mattie Ulrich, costume design; Jeff Croiter, lighting; Joanna Lynne Staub, sound design. Cast: Emily Skinner (Jean), Michael Berry (Frank), Nikki Snelson, Michelle Blakely, Jacquelyn Piro & Kevin Carolan, all surround group leaderCharles Hagerty Cast: Michael Berry, Michelle Blakely, Jacquelyn Piro, Emily Skinner and Nikki Snelson.
September 11 at 8pm; Sept. 12 at 1pm; Sept. 15 at 8pm; Sept. 16 at 1pm; Sept. 17 at 4:30 and 8pm., New World Stages/Stage 5.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer on Sept. 11th.
Hot and Sweet. An all-girl ‘40s big band strives to make it to the top. Book, music and lyrics by Barbara Schottenfeld. It is 1945 and the men are overseas. Interweaves the personal stories of these pioneering musicians—their dreams, their loves, their struggles, and their bittersweet triumphs. Sept. 21 at 8pm, Sept. 24 at 3pm; Sept. 27 and 29 at 5pm; Sept. 29 at 9 pm. Theatre at St. Clement's.
Journey to the West.
It's Buddhism once-over-lightly to take innocent-in-training (Steven Booth) from a heavenly conflict to earthly ruckus while finding enlightenment along his journey to recover some unnamed holy scriptures in western China. His three companions (Philip Solomon, Nicholas Kohn and show standout W. Wong) smooth the way against the machinations of the piece's villain (David Girolmo). A fairy godmother/goddess (Angela Ai) on your team doesn't hurt, either. It's a struggle but the good guys win in the end. Christine Hudman, Ann Mathews, Kevyn Morrow, A.J. Ocampo, Shannon Stoeke and Daniel Therrien round out the cast.
Music by Richard Oberacker is easy on the ear, and it's nearly continuous song from beginning to end. That keeps things moving, but the plot and the fine points of Buddhist philosophy are packed into the lyrics --and they're not always intelligible. Robert Taylor with Oberacker penned book and lyrics-cutesy rhymes abound but the overall tone is trite. Oberacker also handled the direction. The multi-talented performers are uniformly well rehearsed and make a great case for the piece. In addition there needs to be a watchful eye to gauge pacing so the humorous lines come through and there is space for laughter. Oberacker's songs are a mite too similar in rhythm, and the show could use more musical variety. It would be nice to hear more individuality from the women, all excellent vocalists but sounding identical.
While the two-level set is understandably simple in the context of this festival, Elizabeth Cox's splashy costumes are effective, and Maggie M. Bailey's lighting adds focus to the story. Kevin Frisch's delightful puppets whiz by all too quickly, but it's in the movement department that this production distinguishes itself. Andrew Palermo's choreography fits like the proverbial glove to add pizzazz to the proceedings. Although the martial arts sections courtesy Bai Ge go a long way to giving the tale an oriental cast, there is still a long way to go. Cast members Ocampo and Wong can lead the way.
Book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker, music by Richard Oberacker. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with an intermission. Sept 25 at 8pm, Sept. 27 at 5pm, Sept. 29 at 1 and 5 pm; Sept. 30 at 9pm; Oct. 1 at 1 pm. 37 Arts. Reviewed by David Lipfert on Oct. 1st.
Kingdom. King Dres rises to power in the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation Book, music and lyrics by Ian Williams and Aaron Jafferis. Story of Andreas and Juan, two kids from the barrio who quit their deadend jobs to join a well-known underground pride organization, the Almighty Latin Kings & Queens Nation, in a search for honor and respect. When tragedy rocks the group, struggle for leadership of the Nation tears the two friends apart with devestating results. Original rap/hip-hop/Latin score, directed by Louis Moreno. Sept. 13 at 8pm, Sept. 15 at 4:30pm; Sept. 16 at 4:30 & 8pm; Sept. 19 at 8pm; Sept. 23 at 1pm. TBG Theater.
Lunch. Book, music, and lyrics by Shawn Northrip. At Benjamin Franklin Middle School, lunch is everyone’s favorite subject. First crushes and first kisses, best friends growing jealous of girlfriends, and the all-important battle for Queen of the eighth grade formal dance. Developed at the Kennedy Center. Punk/ska/rock score by Shawn Northrip, whose Titus X was featured at NYMF 2004. Sept. 13 at 8pm, Sept. 15 at 9pm; Sept. 16 at 1pm; Sept. 20 at 8pm; Sept. 23 and 24 at 1pm. 45th Street Theatre.
Oedipus for Kids! Book and lyrics by Kimberly Patterson and Gil Varod, music by Robert J. Saferstein. Oedipus for kids with Oedipus, a little boy taking an exciting journey across ancient Greece to become king! [Warning: May contain manslaughter, eye-gouging and parental incest]. Sept. 12 at 8pm, Sept. 16 at 7:30; Sept. 17 at 4:30 pm; Sept. 20 at 8pm; Sept. 24 at 4:30; Sept. 25 at 8pm The Sage.
River’s End. The mysterious disappearance of real-life honeymooners, presented from two points of view. Book and lyrics by Cheryl Coons, music by Chuck Larkin. Based on the real-life disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde, who vanished on their daredevil river-rafting honeymoon to the Grand Canyon in 1928, Sept. 21 at 8pm, Sept. 22 at 4:30; Sept. 23 at 8pm; Sept. 24 at 4:30; Sept. 27 at 9pm; Oct. 1 at 1pm. at 8pm TBG.
The Screams of Kitty Genovese
Among all of the spunky, fascinating shows at the Festival, this stands out as more ambitious, more harrowing and more operatic than the norm. It's an impressive, intense work that packs a great deal into its 75 minutes.
We're all familiar with the story of Kitty Genovese (performed by the excellent Sheri Sanders), whose 1964 murder went heard and unreported by her Kew Gardens neighbors. Will Todd 's musicand David Simpatico's book and lyrics focus on Kitty as she heads out for the evening as her neighbors stay in for what seems like will be "just another night."
Except for Kitty and her murderer (Arthur W. Marks) director David Edwards keeps the entire cast in their apartments throughout this claustrophobic production. Some of . Kitty's neighbors include an insomniac (Cheryl Alexander), a couple having an affair (Melanie Vaughan and Jody Reynard) and a lonely single woman (Shawna Hamic). Each character is spotlighted in turn and given a reason (some better than others) as to why he or she doesn't make a move when Kitty's desperate screams begin. This isn't a isn't historically accurate interpretation but basically takes as fact the (later disproven) initial New York Times report that 38 of Kitty's neighbors heard the screams, understood what was happening, and yet did nothing to help.. But accuracy, or lack of it, isn't really the point, The show is really more about examining why than in pointing a finger at any culprits. What ultimately stays with you is the score. Though, mostly dissonant and unmelodic, it suits its material and makes for an intense and powerful experience -- one that, given all the bloodshed and heartlessness, is difficult w to watch though a truly theatrical, deeply moving piece of theater that I'd recommendwithout reservation.
Cast: Cheryl Alexander (Frannie), Brendan Byrnes (Vinny), Elizabeth DeRosa (Cathy), Shawna Hamic (Betty), Amy Justman (Martha), Kevin Kern (Jimmy), Arthur W. Marks (Winston Moseley), Michael McKinsey (Marty), Jody Reynard (Baby), Sheri Sanders (Kitty Genovese), Russell H. Saylor III (Mac), Melanie Vaughan (Mommy) Sept. 26 at 8pm, Sept. 27 at 1pm; Sept. 28 at 9pm; Sept. 29 at 1pm ; Sept. 30 at 9pm; Oct. 1 at 3 pm. St. Clement's. Reviewed by Julia Furay, Sept. 26.
This is exactly the sort of show appropriate for a musical theatre festival. It's sassy. It's crass. It's relevant. It's contemporary. It's funny and has bundles of energy. What it doesn't have, is a well-crafted book or a strong score, so it's not as hilarious or high-flying as I hoped it would be, but there's plenty of creativity to enjoy here anyway.
The show is ostensibly about a your North Korean immigrant woman named Kim (Jihyen Park), straight man to nearly everyone else in the cast) and owner of a dry cleaning shop. When her business plummets after the 2003 New York City smoking ban is passed she decides to take action to get her beloved job back. That's the main story, but there are plenty of subplots to distract and amuse. No matter which characters are on stage, Smoking Bloomberg is absolutely stuffed with silliness and satire. They mock everyone -- smokers, nonsmokers, terrorists, the police, Nick Nolte, gay prostitutes -- always returning to the smokers. The cast performs their many roles with zest and go for broke in trying to get laughs.
Many of the audience members at the performance I saw obviously loved everything and howled with laughter; but just as many were clearly uncomfortable with the foul language and politically incorrect tone of the piece. Though I mostly enjoyed it, the schtick grew old and tired after what seemed like the millionth pimp/ho joke and even John Ruocco's . high-octane direction couldn't keep the show from eventually sagging. Two hours and fifteen minutes with an intermission is far too long for a show with such a weak storyline and would benefit from some cuts. Still Smoking Bloomberg has enough promise and personality for anyone with a taste for edgy musicals to check out.
Book, music & lyrics by David Cornue, Sam Holtzapple, Warren Loy, and Chris Todd. Sept. 13 at 8pm, Sept.16 at 5 & 9pm; Sept. 20 at 5pm ; Sept. 23 at 1pm; Sept. 24 at 8pm . St. Clement's. -- Reviewed by Julia Furay on September 16.
Direct from London -- the actors only arrived shortly before the first performance -- comes this warm, funny new musical in the style of Tick, Tick, Boom or The Last Five Years. What's most impressive about Three Sides is the bright, pop-infused score by young composer Grant Olding. Lots of harmonies and humor enliven and energize this love triangle between a spunky young Londoner Carrie (Caroline Sheen) and her two boyfriends (Jon-Paul Hevey and Mark McGee). In fact, the plot is almost entirely developed through Olding's songs, as Carrie frets about which guy to date in "Carrie Makes a Decision." Bryan (the conservative boyfriend, performed by McGee) wonders how "The Big Third Date" will go, and Anthony (Hevey, the grungy musician boyfriend) sings with delight about the attention Carrie commands as she walks through London in "When Carrie Walks.""
As the title and concept make clear, this is very much a love triangle, but not a conventional one. It isn't really about whether or not Carrie's deceit will be exposed or which guy she will eventually pick. Instead, as the book co-authors focus on examining three people coping with relationships and commitment. All three actors seem to have a great deal of fun wrapping their voices around the music and interacting with each other between songs. The boys are both attractive and likable, but I was particularly impressed with Sheen as Carrie. Her straightforward, cheerful stage presence that keeps her character appealing despite her undeniably horrible treatment of both men. The actors, music and Clive Paget's smooth staging combine to make a remarkably successful production. The one major problem with the piece is the erratic quality of the book scenes between the songs, in which the three characters step out of real time and talk about their situation in metaphors. For example, the boys teach Carrie how to play cards, and the conversation turns to cheating (both at cards and on your lover). It's an interesting choice, but the device comes off as clunky and without the theatricality that comes through in the songs. Still, those songs are more than enough to turn Three Sides into a thoughtful, touching musical, one that stays with you.
Music and lyrics by Grant Olding, book by Grant Olding with Toby Davies. Sept. 21 at 8pm, Sept 22 at 1 & 7pm; Sept. 23 & 24at 8pm ; Sept. 27 at 1pm; Sept. 30 at 4:30 pm. 45th Street Theatre. Reviewed by Julia Furay Sept.21, 8pm
I saw this bio-musical about the American-Indian all-around athlete Jim Thorpe (b.1887, d. 1953) on the same day as Flight of the Lawnchair Man -- a nice change of subject, style and mood. Marcus Humman, t he man responsible for Thorpe's musical odyssey of glory won and lost is, as he was, a triple threat talent -- actually, a quadruple threat, since Hummon not only wrote the book, music and lyrics but is part of the band (he plays the guitar). The country music flavored score serves Thorpe's story quite well, as does the flashback structure which Director Michael Bush has cannily organized as a sort of circus ring in which the various scenes are played out like so many circus acts. This circular playing area is ringed by chairs for the cast with Marla Schaffel in a raised seat as a ringmaster/narrator and the seductive personification of the passion for women and whiskey that were at the root of his becoming a tragic figure. Schaffel's performance is one of the show's major assets. Deven May, while not big and imposing as pictures of Thorpe indicate he was, but he has an imposing emotional presence and has a fine voice. Sherrie Austin, who plays his first wife Iva is also outstanding.
Hummon has stuck closely to the published highlights of Thorpe's life, beginning towards the end and flashing back to his boyhood.
The actors, all first-rate, step in and out of that circus-like circular playing area right before out eyes. The songs grow organically from the dialogue, though few really jump out and stick to the ears and there's an overemphasis on presentational singing, with the ensemble facing the audience as in a concert. My quibbles aside, this is an interesting, affecting, well structured and performed musical that's worth spending an hour and a half with.
Music, lyrics and book by Marcus Hummon, directed by Michael Bush. Starring Deven May , Marla Schaffel and Sherrie Austin. Ensemble: Erich Bergen, Cole Burden, Michael Aaron Capps, Trisha Jeffrey, T.J. Mannix, Erick Pinnick, Brian Charles Rooney, Nancy Slusser.
Songs: My America Is Gone (Jim And Cast) Hiram's Lament (Hiram) Your Daddy's Demons (Whiskey) Tis' The Gift (Cast) Nowhere To Go (Iva And Jim) Pop's Theme/Song Of Home (Pop And Cast) 49-0* (Coach And Men) Easy To Fall/Hard To Rise (Jim) Vdhat's Not To Love (Whiskey And Women) Superman (Iva And Cast) Rus}I** (Jim And Cast) Thanks King (Avery) Rush (Reprise) (Jim And Cast) The Wedding Day (Jim, Iva And Cast) Thanks King (Reprise) (Avery) To Hit Or Miss A Curve (John Mcgraw And Cast) Iva's Lament!Child In Winter (Iva, Jim And Cast) I'm Leavin' Your Town (Jim) The Boys From The Factory (Charlie And Men) Runaway (Whiskey) How A Man Oughta Die (Charlie And Cast) American Lijllabye Sept.12 at 8pm; Sept. 15 at 5 & 9pm; Sept. 17 at 3pm; Sept. 20 at 9pm; Sept.23 at 5pm Theatre at St. Clement's.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer Sept. 15th 5pm performance.
THE NEW NYMF DANCE SERIES
To support dance as an essential part of musical theater, and because dance musicals can't be discovered by listening to a CD or reading a script, here are some dance events to be included this year, all at 37 Arts:
Although there is nothing new about the innocent being corrupted by big city sin, this theme takes on new vivid colors in Josh Walden's new dance musical. The pulsating rhythms and sultry jazz sounds in the original score by Alex Fortuit and Travis Sullivan create a delightful synthesis of sound and movement. The highly trained and talented dancers provide us with sixty minutes of action packed theatrical dance.
Yearning for love and experience in New York, Amy Ling (Orange Girl), Jill Slyter (Yellow Girl) and Jolynn Baca (Green Girl) hopefully enter a stage filled with emotionless city types. The ten member ensemble resembles a spectrum of New Yorkers hidden under their nondescript grey-beige color. True identities are revealed during the sultry night life scene where all types of partnership are evident. Hope turns into despair as the three young ladies experience adversity. They survive their ordeals and in the end, welcome three new urban novices. There are many beautiful choreographic sequences. Orange's pas de deux, with a second couple in the background romantically entwining each other, was especially moving. All was enhanced by the fine costume designs of Theresa Distasi and dramatic lighting of Herrick Goldman.
At times this piece borders on the melodramatic but it is refreshing to sit back and enjoy a dance drama that reminds us of the days of Kelly, Caron and Astaire. The dancers' expressions along with their movements told the story well. The ecstatic reaction of the audience indicates that this is what dance and theater goers want.. 37 Arts. September 19 at 8:, September 23 at 4, September 27 and 28 at 9.
Reviewed by Joan Eshkenazi Sept. 27 at 9pm
It's delightful; it's delicious; it's delectable! Wendy Seyb, the choreographer and director provides us with fifty-five minutes of hilarity. It has been a long time since I have seen such a clever dance work that turns the audience into a sea of laughter.
Twelve students dance out their fantasies, puppy loves and desires throughout the evening of their annual school dance. The stage is bare except for a simple banner announcing the "School Dance, Where Your Fantasies Come True." The time is in the 1980's. A dancer carries a skateboard as the rest of the ensemble gravitates to their chosen cliques. A Dork (Kathryn Fraggos) emerges with her notebook informing all that she is in love with the Jock (Tim McGarrigal), creating the setting for the energetic teenage gyrations that follow. The surprise is that all this is done to the music of Mozart (The Marriage of Figaro, "Overture").
The highly talented dancers continue their hilarious encounters throughout their unrestrained fantasizing, accompanied by Mozart, Rossini, Grieg,Tchaikovsky, Bizet and Ponchielli. The lithesome, graceful body of Keith Coughlin languidly drops in his drunken bliss and recovers to be courted by an amorous male corps de ballet, all to the "Dance of the Hours".
Heather Dunbar's costumesare perfection. From Desire (Jennifer Bowles) to the Geek (Brian Spitulnik), we have known all these young people in our own high school days. We just never realized how colorful and talented they could be! Chris Hudacs has provided the perfect lighting to shine upon them all.
Throughout this dance comedy, the choreographer combines the classical dance with the contemporary forms so that we have fun recognizing great moments from other choreographic masters such as Robbins, de Mille, Bourne and even Michael Jackson. We are continually presented with the unexpected and fresh approach to dance. The combination of thef classical music with contemporary and popular movement succeeds. To create a successful dance comedy is extremely difficult for any choreographer as this is dependent upon skill of dances and creator, music, timing and facial animation. All of these were present at the performance I attended. Expect to see more works from Wendy Seyb.
37 Arts, September 21 at 8pm, September 23 at 7pm and September 28 at 3pm. Reviewed by Joan Eshkenazi, September 28th at 3pm
This was a thoroughly joyous high energy performance, which significantly takes the candle of invention in stage dance from Twyla Tharp to the next level. Like Ms. Tharp's very successful creation, Movin' Out, this work also sometimes suffers from plot confusions, but the characters nevertheless all are richly distinctive and arresting to the eye. The choreography, although shared by five creators, nevertheless has a perfect continuity and consistency for Katsoros's evocative and appealing music.
Much of the action occurs in a trendy coffee shop which, like the show, is called Common Grounds. Some of the patrons are seen in their lives elsewhere, as "the office" or "a hotel room." The performers, excellent to astonishing, convey their characters entirely in dance and mime, with spoken voices heard only occasionally and apparently recorded onto the sound system.
While this dance musical lacks lyrics altogether, its strengths of both place and character and integration of original music into the story nevertheless make it musical theater as much as dance. An office scene might be compared to one in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying in its cartooned exaggeration of office behavior, although here the frantic movements of the characters suggest they are on more than coffee. While some of the action such as the appearance of a gunman in a cliché hat and trench coat on one level seems contrived, on another it underscores the creators' intent of drawing our attention to the haphazard nature of our lives.
The dancing, which is the core of the piece, is elegant, arresting, and surprising throughout. The crisp, fluid, and uncluttered direction by Igor Goldin manages to make even the scene changes fascinating. Projected supertitles help to identify scene changes and characters. Unfortunately the sound system is inadequate, and many words of the few recorded speeches are lost, obscuring some plot elements. But as scenes seem to deliberately reoccur and become superimposed on one another, details of story hardly matter, for we are in a world that even while it may look like New York in 2006, probably is better known to the likes of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, masters of the modern psyche and probable inadvertent spiritual fathers to this wondrous dance musical.
This NYMF commission has a book by Sammy Buck; music composed and performed by Doug Katsoros and choreography by Ron De Jesus, Ray Leeper, Tiger Martina, Rhonda Miler, and Lisa Stevens Igor Goldin directs. Cast: Kevin Aubin, Kurt Froman, Karla Puno Garcia, Bob Gaynor, Gina Ianni, Rhonda Kaufman, Michael Keefe, Jason Luks, Kaitana Magno, Mayumi Miguel, Jordan Spencer, and Steven Williams. Set Consultant, Ray Klausen; costume coordinator, Jennifer Hoddinott; lighting byKen Lapham; production designby KellyAnne Hanrahan. Running time: one hour (no intermission). 37 Arts, 450 West 37th Street. September 20 at 8pm, September 22 at 1pm and September 28 at 6:30 pm. Viewed by Brad Bradley at the September 22nd NYMF performance.
THE NYMF DEVELOPMENTAL SERIES NMTN, the parent organization of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, has supported the creation and development of new musicals for more than 20 years through its writer development and evaluation programs.
ALIVE IN THE WORLD. Music and lyrics by Paul Scott Goodman. New musical-in-progress by the composer of Bright Lights Big City, Him and Her, and NYMF 2005 hit Rooms. A cast of four explore what it is to be alive in the world of modern-day New York City, in a revue that follows the mold of Jacques Brel. Directed by Kurt Deutsch, president of Sh-K-Boom Records, Cast, TBA. Sage, Sept. 14 @ 7:00 PM & 10:00 PM; Sept. 15 @ 8:00 PM; Sept. 16 @ 4:30 PM; Sept. 17 @ 7:00 PM & 10:00 PM.
CHANG & ENG. Book by Burton Cohen, lyrics by Stephen Hoffman, music by Mark Campbell. What happens when two exotic men, the toast of the world's great capitals, decide to settle down with two sisters in the tiny, provincial town of Wilkesboro, North Carolina? St. Clements. Sept. 25 @ 4:30 PM & 8:00 PM
CUMBERLAND BLUES. Book by Michael Norman Mann, music by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, lyrics by Robert Hunter, with additional material by Phil Lesh and Greg Anton. Peter Jones, Sr. came to the town of Cumberland, MD with two dollars in his pocket and not a friend in the world. By the end of his first night, he'd found a poker game and won a mining claim. Now, all these years later, all he has left is the Palace Hotel, the Mine, a case of Black Lung, and a date with the grave. Word of Jones's failing health is music to the ears of Jesse Steel, the region's most influential and infamous businessman. With the Mining Wars threatening to reignite his independent mining operation right in the crosshairs, Jones wants one last chance at reconciliation with his estranged sons, Pete Jr. and Mick. St. Clements. St. Clements. Sept. 22 @ 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM.
DRIFT. Book by Craig Pospisil, music and lyrics by Jeremy Schonfeld. Based on the critically acclaimed concept album by Jeremy Schonfeld, DRIFT follows the turbulent journey of a struggling songwriter in the midst of the devastating break-up of his family. In an attempt to make sense of this emotional upheaval, David joins a men's divorce-therapy group led by his therapist, Dr. Schneider and is introduced to a variety of men, whose circumstances mirror his own. Both sad and darkly humorous, DRIFT is, ultimately, a deeply personal story of survival and triumph. Sage. Sept.13@ 8:00 PM; Sept 15 @ 1:00 PM & 4:30 PM; Sept. 16 @ 1:00 PM & 10:00 PM; Sept. 17 @ 1:00 PM.
MAGPIE. Book by Steve Jacobson, music by Gary William Friedman, lyrics by Edward Gallardo. An original musical with Latin overtones, MAGPIE is the story of star-crossed lovers set in the fast-paced world of New York City bicycle messengers. Presented by Amas Musical Theater. TBG Sept. 27 @ 3:00 PM & 6:00 PM; Sept. 28 @ 6:00 PM.
SAINT HEAVEN. Book by Martin Casella, music and lyrics by Keith Gordon. Thom Rivers, a young doctor, returns home to Saint Heaven, Kentucky for his father's funeral. Met with unhappy memories - and strong pressure to follow in his beloved father's footsteps -- Thom is determined to forget the pain of his past, settle Daddy's affairs, and head back north. But his plans change when he falls in love with a black preacher who speaks in tongues. Believing her to be suffering from epilepsy, he attempts to treat her, sparking a chain of events that affect their lives and all those who live in Saint Heaven. A contemporary country/gospel/R&B score propels this intimate and inspiring love story. . Sage. Sept.29@ 1:00 PM & 4:30 PM.
THE TALES OF CUSTARD THE DRAGON. Book by Mary Hall Surface, music by Brad Ross and lyrics by Danny Whitman. Join Custard the Dragon along with his friends Ink, Blink and Mustard as they embark on a musical journey in which our most unlikely hero finds the courage to rescue his beloved Belinda from a menacing Pirate and a wicked Knight! Ogden Nash's beloved Dragonbooks come to life in a new musical theatre piece originally commissioned by the Kennedy Center. For audiences aged 5 and older. Makor/Steinhardt Center. Oct. 1 @ 2:00 PM.
THE CHOCOLATE TREE. By Al and Marshall Pailet. Iinspired by the true story of a young girl who turned adversity into inspiration and touched an entire nation. Moving between reality and fantasy, the show depicts a family's journey through the unthinkable, led by a child's spirit and determination to bring the impossible to life. Sage. Sept.21 @ 1:00 PM & 4:30 PM.
WALLENBERG. Book and lyrics by Laurence Holzman and Felicia Needleman, music by Benjamin Rosenbluth. This epic musical tells the fascinating story of one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century. Between face-offs with the notorious Nazi colonel Adolf Eichmann and a probable affair with the wife of one of Hungary's most prominent fascist leaders, Raoul Wallenberg was able to accomplish more in six months than most people do in a lifetime. After saving the lives of over 100,000 Hungarian Jews in World War II-more than were rescued by any other individual, organization or government during the entire Holocaust-Wallenberg was abducted by the Russians as the war ended, never to be seen again. Thom Christopher Warren performs the title role, heading a talented cast of 35. New World Stages. Sept. 17 @ 7:00 PM; Sept. 20 @ 8:00 PM.
THE NYMF CONCERT AND SPECIAL EVENT SERIES. To highlight the breadth of musical theater artistry, NYMF is bringing a diverse array of special performances under its umbrella-featuring new work, new writers, unusual performances and unique collaborations. BABY WANTS CANDYBased in Chicago, BWC has amazed audiences around the world with its signature show-a completely improvised hour-long musical that has been described as a cross between Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Simpsons. 45TH Street Theatre. Sept. 27 @ 10:30 PM; Sept. 28 & 30 @ 10:30 PM
BLUE LOU AND THE BULLYFISH. A concert version of the musical storybook by Stephanie Arasim Portnoy. A family-friendly show featuring puppetry and an exciting score by award-winning composer Andrea Green Feigenbaum. 45TH Street Theatre. Sept 17 @ 1:00 PM & 4:30 PM.
LITTLE BY LITTLE. Book by Ellen Greenfield and Annette Jolles, music by Brad Ross, lyrics by Ellen Greenfield and Hal Hackady. Boy + Girl + Girl = Trouble. Three childhood pals end up in a tricky love triangle that will change their friendship-and their lives-forever. The hit musical originally seen in New York at The York Theatre comes to NYMF as a one-night-only concert that will leave you humming the tunes and taking another look at your life. Makor/Steinhardt Center. Sept. 25 @ 8:00 PM.
THE MACGUFFINBy Terry Withers and Jason Rhyne. When an eccentric socialite is accused of murdering her husband, it falls to a wily insurance claims adjuster-and a cast of misfits who share his apartment/office space-to prove her innocence. Sage. Sept. 21 & 23
@ 11:00 PM. THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICOLOGY OF BEN FOLDS Broadway and Off-Broadway's best take on the songs of pop sensation Ben Folds. 37 Arts. Sept.24 4 @ 7:00 PM.
The Internet Theatre Bookshop "Virtually Every Play in the World" --even out of print plays
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.